Friday, December 09, 2005

Scripture nerd post #2

Modern translators have more tools at their disposal than their earlier counterparts did. At the same time, translation is more liable to strange biases, at least in my opinion. Modern translators also are often very quick to amend texts when they don't seem to make sense (to them). Here is a interesting example.
"The LORD loves those who hate evil." (Ps. 97:10a RSV & Grail)

My translations
hebrew: "Lovers of YHWH: Hate evil!"
Septuagint (Greek): "Those who love the Lord: hate evil!" (note: my Greek is not that good, but I assure you that this is close enough for our purposes here)
Vulgate (Latin): "You who love the Lord: hate evil!"

I put those three ancient versions out there to suggest that there is no good manuscript justification for the RSV and Grail translation. The RSV footnotes admit that they are making a correction and it is true that the Hebrew text as it stands is corrupted. However, the Septuagint and Vulgate were translations made from more ancient versions than the Hebrew version we have today. There does not seem to be any overwhelming reason not to trust the Alexandrian Jews and St. Jerome on this one.

What makes it more suspect for me is that the RSV translation suggests that we must earn God's love by hating evil. The other version is theologically sounder: God loves everyone. If we wish to be lovers of God, however, we must learn to hate evil. The onus is on us to resist evil, whereas the modern versions make it sound as if God owes it to us to love us if we hate evil.

What would make a modern translator favor the "The LORD loves those..." version? Perhaps it provides a better parallel with the latter stiches of the verse: "He preserves the lives of His saints/He delivers them from the hand of the wicked." Is there a theological reason? I confess I don't see one.

Incidentally, in response to an earlier post dealing with theodicy: 'evil' here is the Hebrew ra' and clearly fits better the idea of moral evil rather than natural/physical evil. And recall in the earlier post that God claims to create evil. Thankfully, we have two different human authors here: it would be worse than awkward to have to reconcile the idea that we are commanded to hate something that God creates.

Peace to you!

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